Speech by President von der Leyen at the European Development Days

June 15, 2021
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Ladies and Gentlemen,

Distinguished guests,

Dear friends,

Welcome to the fourteenth edition of the European Development Days.

This year’s meeting on “The Green Deal for a Sustainable Future” could not come at a more crucial time. The COVID-19 pandemic has just shown us, how directly the health of our people and the health of our planet are interconnected. Of course, it was already clear prior to the pandemic, that climate change is THE defining challenge of our time. It therefore was a top priority for our Commission from day one.

With our European Green Deal, we want to lead the way for a green and inclusive transformation of our economies and our societies. The pandemic has made this task even more urgent. We have spoken a lot about the links between biodiversity loss and COVID-19. Now we must move to action. This is why, just recently, at the Global Health Summit, the Commission together with the Italian G20 presidency put the One Health Approach at the centre of the Rome Declaration.

Also economically this is the right thing to do: The harm that we are doing to the Earth’s climate and environment is also harming the well-being of billions of people worldwide. That is why it is right and also prudent to invest quickly and boldly in the health of our planet.

This year’s edition of the European Development Days takes place as we prepare the road to the UN Biodiversity Conference in Kunming. There we want to agree on a powerful new Global Biodiversity Framework. A framework to mobilise all citizens, and all parts of government and society. I am sure these European Development Days will build momentum towards Kunming. With more than 170 organisations from across the world, this exchange of views will be a truly global one. The next two days are a unique opportunity to share ideas and experiences. It will help to inspire new partnerships. And to find innovative solutions.

The Development Days are not just about ideas – but also about action. The EU is ready to work with partners to address both, biodiversity loss and the climate crisis. That’s why the EU is working towards global commitments to protect 30% of our land and our sea. This is a goal for the Biodiversity COP15 in China. And we are also aiming to increase climate ambitions at COP26 in Glasgow.

The EU is determined to turn these challenges into economic opportunities. The question “How to ensure green growth?” will be key to speed up global efforts against climate change and the loss of biodiversity. We as European Union want to lead the way, when the answers are formulated in Kunming.

Dear friends,

We have seen our young generation taking to the street. They are standing up and putting the planet’s health first. And rightly so – because their future is at stake. Their voices must have a significant impact on our policies and actions. I am therefore delighted that we have a remarkable group of talented young leaders with us in this opening ceremony. This year, we want young people to shape the discussion.

Beyond this, I know that Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen’s Youth Sounding Board Initiative will open up new possibilities to hear directly from young people. We need you, the young, with your energy, drive and vision to take on the huge challenge facing your generation! Because we all know: it will take courage, leadership and political will to push for the greater good. But it is worth any effort. You can count on Europe.

Let’s get started!

Countries covered:

  • Algeria
  • Egypt
  • Israel
  • Jordan
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Morocco
  • Palestine *
  • Syria *
  • Tunisia